12535 John Fisher: A Forester Hangs Up His Spurs

12535 John Fisher: A Forester Hangs Up His Spurs

Article by: 12570 Mike Kennedy

I’ve heard it said many times that the best officers are those who come from the ranks. If that is indeed the case (and I can well believe that it is true) then this past week the Canadian Army must surely have lost one of its very best. On March 2 of this year, (12535 John Fisher (photo left) finally hung up his uniform after an extraordinary career that spanned 43years of service to Canada.

John was born in March 1957 at Camp Borden. His father, Bob Fisher, was a highly respected and much loved officer in the Canadian Guards who at the time was on the staff of the Royal Canadian School of Infantry. Growing up in Barrie, John’s own military career began in his early teens as an Army Cadet. In 1974, at the age of 17, he enrolled as a Private in the Grey and Simcoe Foresters, a militia regiment to which he would eventually devote much of his adult life. Over the course of his career he rose to the rank of Major, and served both the Regiment and the Canadian Forces in a wide variety of different capacities.

I first met John on August 22, 1976, at the time both of us entered RMC as recruits in “N” Flight of 5 Squadron. Little did I realize it at the time, but the disparities in terms of our military knowledge and experience could not have been more pronounced. I was a wide-eyed, terrified recruit who was starting literally at square one in terms of acquiring military skills. John, in contrast, was a seasoned Master Corporal whose previous assignments had included a period of time instructing new recruits at CFB London. Looking back now, I realize that when John first walked through the front gates at RMC, he already knew far more about real soldiering than did most of our seniors !

As we also quickly found out, through no fault of his own, John had some special challenges to contend with which made certain aspects of his time at RMC a lot more difficult than was the case for the rest of us. This, however, did not deter him from resolutely displaying the indomitable strength of character and willingness to persevere in the face of adversity which are the defining qualities of a true Ex-Cadet. John spent his first term in 1 Section of “N” Flight, under the imitable Scotty Miller, and his section-mates turned out to be a pretty accomplished group. His roommate, 12533 Rich Cumyn, was a superbly talented athlete who played on the College hockey team, and who won the “Most Gentlemanly Boxer” award in the recruit boxing competition. Two other members of that group eventually became Cadet Wing Officers during their final year at RMC.

John himself participated enthusiastically in College activities, notably as a member of the Pistol Team under the tutelage of our Squadron Drill Instructor, WO Henry Green. Due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances, he was obliged to leave the College prematurely, at the end of his second year in 1978.Even so, this initial setback did not prevent him from subsequently going on to pursue what would become a remarkably successful academic and professional career, during which time he would graduate from Georgian College; earn degrees from Queen’s, Wilfrid Laurier, and ultimately, a Master’s degree from RMC; pursue a highly successful career not only as a soldier, but also as an engineering technologist, teacher, and Justice of the Peace; and finally, accumulate awards, medals, and honours that are too numerous to list.

I first got to know John when we were recruits together in “N” Flight, and got to know him a lot better when we occupied adjacent rooms in “P” Flight, this time in winter 1977. Among my many memories of him, the one that stands out was a conversation we had a few weeks after we arrived at the College, which turned out to be a pivotal event in my life. By that time I was struggling with the training and feeling totally overwhelmed, and was seriously contemplating the possibility of quitting. Being much more experienced and mature than I was, John calmly and patiently talked to me about the situation, helped me to put my fears into better perspective, and strongly encouraged me to persevere. It was an act of kindness in the face of a difficult situation which I have never since forgotten, and which I still appreciate to this day, now 40 years later.

It’s difficult to find words which will be adequate to describe the kind of guy that John is. Through his exemplary record of service he’s proven himself to be s gentleman and a soldier’s soldier, an officer of the old school who takes care of the troops before he takes care of himself, and above all, a true man of honour who commands respect, because he deserves it. But more than anything else, I think all of us would agree that John is a great guy who exemplifies the very best of what it means to be an Ex-Cadet, and he’s someone that the rest of us can feel proud and privilidiged to be able to call a friend. And he will be a friend, for life.

Best wishes, John, and thank you for your service. You have served the College and your Regiment with tremendous  loyalty and dedication, and your contributions have left a lasting impact on all those who have been fortunate to know you. As you now look forward to the next stage of your life, we know you won’t be retiring, but rather that you will continue to move forward, and find some new way in which to continue to serve Canada and her people. We wish you the best of success, health, and happiness in the years that lie ahead, and we know that you’ll continue to lead the way for the rest of us as an example of what RMC stands for, and of what it means to be a true Ex-Cadet.


12570 Mike Kennedy



  • Jim Kightley

    March 6, 2017 at 11:38 am

    As a second year in Five Squadron when John was a Rook, I watched him in awe and with humility. A truly inspirational person.
    Enjoy your retirement, John

    Jim Kightley

  • John Selkirk

    March 6, 2017 at 11:41 am


    Very appropriate and well said. If you could send me John’s email I would like to send him a note.


  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    March 6, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Great to hear from these gentlemen after all these years, I remember both of them very well. I should take this opportunity to acknowledge that Jim and his fellow second years in Brock Squadron were very good to all of us, and they did a lot to help us survive that memorable transition period to life at RMC. From what I am aware, our second years have all gone on to do very well in their subsequent lives and careers, and we are proud of their accomplishments.

    Similarly, John Selkirk was a Major at the time, and was our first Squadron Commander in 5 Squadron in 1976. A very impressive officer and gentleman who was a real inspiration to the recruits. I still remember his first speech to us one evening, a scant few days after we had arrived at the College.

    To all veterans of 5 Squadron 1976-77 who may be reading this, thanks for everything. We didn’t fully realize it at the time, but you were a great bunch of guys, and knowing you was what made it all worthwhile. Our squadron picture (taken right about this time, 40 years ago) hangs proudly on my wall today – even though I am barely visible in the back row !

    Best to all and thanks again.


  • David Singleton

    March 6, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    Truer words never spoken.
    I can echo Mike’s sentiments….John is a gentleman AND scholar both. I’m glad and proud to know him, and you Mike. Thank you for penning that tribute.

  • Lionel Boxer

    May 8, 2017 at 12:17 am

    Well done John. 1973 is when we first met at B Coy, Cadet Leader, Ipperwash Army Cadet Camp – with Bruce Henwood. Then in 1975, when we completed our Junior NCO course at CFB Borden – again with Bruce Henwood. In early 1976 I was a duty driver when you were doing a Senior NCO course. Then in August 1976 Bruce, you and I took our Oath of Allegiance at Canadian Forces Base Toronto by Colonel Simmonds, the father of Chris Simmond who also started at RMC in 1976 and was in Frontenac Squadron with Bruce. I also went back to the Army Reserve and our paths crossed a few times until I moved to Melbourne. Retirement age in Australian Reserves is 65 – why not move here and put in a few more years. I have the B Coy course photo somewhere at home – I’ll send a copy to Victoria when I find it.

  • Darryl J Birch

    May 9, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    As a retired CWO and RSM of the Foresters, I have known and respected John for all of my 31 years of service and beyond. I wish John all the best in his retirement and hope to meet him on the golf course where he can give me a thorough beating again.